Bill Knight

Local Commentator

Ways To Connect

As this is written, it’s 50 years since arguments were made before the US Supreme Court in “Engel v. Vitale,” which a couple of months later resulted in a clarification of the “separation of church and state.”

As this is written, some Catholic Bishops, including His Excellency, Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria, continue to not-so-subtly attack government and to portray the church as victims (despite US Catholics numbering more than 68 million people and 76% of the country saying they are Christians.)

As Mothers’ Day approaches, I recall inadvertently insulting my Mom decades ago, trying to defend a girlfriend’s career goals by criticizing the lack of opportunities for women who stayed home. She said, “I chose to be a housewife and raise you boys.” She did (and did well), but it helped that Dad made decent wages as a lineman. Some women don’t have such choices.

Changes in the economy are causing a lot of hope, a little fear and a healthy measure of rage.

There’s common-sense optimism in the addition of more than 225,000 private-sector jobs in February – the 17th consecutive month of employment improvement and the third straight month that more than 200,000 jobs were added.

In USA Today, Princeton University economics professor Justin Wolfers said, “To the extent there is a debate, it’s whether the economy is recovering or recovering strongly.”

The vast area of the country between the cities has considerable strengths, recent studies show, although population growth generally has some negatives and the need for grocery stores specifically remains an unmet need. Creighton University’s Rural Mainstreet Index, which assesses rural economic health based on a scale from 0 to 100, examines about 200 communities with an average population of 1,300 in Illinois and nine other Great Plains states.

For organized labor: If the environment deteriorates, where will we work? For that matter, for environmentalists: If work is unsafe, how can society be sustained?

Single-issue activism can be focused, but it also can be ineffective, and this month that’s especially worth noting. April is when people commemorate both Earth Day and Workers Memorial Day, sensibly urging prevention as the best course against trouble – on global and personal scales.

The tax code has eroded over the years so it’s no longer progressive – in the sense that more affluent citizens and profitable businesses pay more (what they have left is still a fortune). Now, tax law is filled with loopholes, exemptions and allowances that let some successful corporations pay less to the treasury than they pay their own CEOs.

 Recording artist Bruce Springsteen talks about his new album, “Wrecking Ball,” in a conversation with The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart in the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine, describing the record as featuring characters who are regular people who “just want a job.” In cuts such as “Jack of All Trades” and “Death to My Hometown,” Springsteen’s newest record depicts the country at odds with itself.

 “The banker man grows fat,” he sings, “Working man grows thin.”

The mere title of Larry Bloom’s decent trade paperback – The Cure for Corporate Stupidity: Avoid the Mind-Bugs that Cause Smart People to Make Bad Decisions – might attract anti-corporate types tempted to accumulate more ammunition to bolster existing attitudes against the powerful business structure. But its contents would most benefit business managers who want to prevail and do good work while avoiding mine fields. Or, “mind” fields, with a “D.”

The term “collateral damage” seems insidious, somehow making less meaningful the notion of “innocent bystanders.” However, some say that Americans may prefer the impersonal reference, which also could be why remote-controlled planes provide a level of comfort to a nation at war.

 If so, it’s time for us all to shake ourselves awake, and perhaps the recent tragedy of an Army sergeant apparently killing 16 unarmed Afghan civilians is a horrific alarm to stir us to consciousness.

Occupy Peoria protestors were starting to assemble on Main Street one Saturday in October, when I was reading a magazine, eating an omelet and drinking coffee at a nearby café. A dad at an adjacent table looked out the window at the dozens of demonstrators, turned to his daughter, and said, “What are they complaining about? Half of the country pays no taxes at all!”